As everything from the ‘90s gets revived, a board company you may not have heard of but was quietly influential is coming back.
New Deal was among the more successful skater-owned brands that emerged in the early ‘90s. They became the brand to turn Ed Templeton pro, and ended up founding a distribution company (Giant Distribution), other big (Underworld Element, before they changed it to Element) and iconic brands (Mad Circle, which had both Bobby Puleo and Pontus Alv), and beloved media companies (411VM and On Video) that all shaped skating in their own rights.
Now, New Deal’s founders — Paul Schmitt (PS Stix board manufacturing), Andy Howell (street pro and creative director), and Steve Douglas (vert pro) — are reissuing their original boards, starting with the very first catalog from 1990 and going through their favorite shapes and graphics up until 1992. To start, they’re remaking pro boards for: Andy Howell, Danny Sargent, Steve Douglas, Andrew Morrison, and Ed Templeton.
If you’re too young or distracted to recognize/read any of these names, just think of it like any other week online where you see clips from 10 skaters you’ve never heard of and mutter, “Not bad.”
Older readers and #dadskaters may remember the impact that New Deal, along with World Industries and H-Street, had on the skate industry. Together, these skater-owned brands demonstrated that young people could not only run and market companies on their own, they could do it better and more authentically than older “businessmen.”
In the ‘70s and ‘80s, most skate goods (boards, trucks, wheels) and media were controlled by five brands. Known as the Big Five, they were: NHS (Santa Cruz), Ermico (Independent, Thunder, Venture truck manufacturers, Thrasher), Tracker Trucks (Transworld), Powell-Peralta, and Vision. Skater-owned companies weren’t new (see Alva and Powell-Peralta), but brands like New Deal sparked a movement to look at the skate industry as something young skaters could actually access and shape as they saw fit.
When Paul, Andy, and Steve launched New Deal in 1990, the collectively filled all the company’s roles. They were skating, filming, editing, creating graphics, building board presses, handling sales, and curating a team of skaters that were similarly progressive (like Ed Templeton doing impossibles down stairs and into noseblunt slides, or Ali Mills documenting the first nollie flip on video). They also designed new board technologies and made some of the first baggy jeans and knit tops in skateboarding, bringing skateboarders fully out of their neon short-shorts from the ‘80s.
Although they didn’t exactly have to wait 30 years to do these reissues, they wanted to recover the master tapes from their first three videos (New Deal Promo, *Useless Wooden Toys, and 1281), which until now had only existed as lo-fi rips on YouTube.
“Relaunching New Deal without video and without telling the stories was not exciting in any way, since we had focused on video so heavily and early on as a brand,” Steve said. Their promo video was especially influential because it was the first time a skate brand released a promotional video before putting their product in shops. That’s a no-brainer today, but in its time it was a tricky maneuver that legacy brands didn’t see coming.
Andy Howell, who created New Deal’s art and logo, also dug up a lot of original artwork to use in the reissues. And for any pieces he couldn’t find, Andy brought together other early New Deal artists (Ed Templeton, Chris Miller, Jose Gomez, Gorm Boberg, and more) to authentically recreate the designs.
Like Blind and H-Street’s use of funny and mischievous cartoons, paired with raw-looking exposed wood grain, New Deal’s graffiti-inspired graphics were fresh in the early ‘90s and due for a comeback today.
For starters, the logo looks like a teenager scribbled it with a crayon, which isn’t far from the truth. Andy drew the logo in a hotel room when they were in Del Mar for a National Skateboarding Association contest. And the line at the bottom of their first ad, “as long as we’re not a rock-n-roll band and we don’t make coffee,” is a quote from the lawyer they consulted with to make sure they could start a company with the name New Deal.
In time their artwork became a valuable collectable, and these days original New Deal decks are listed on eBay for as much as $800. More recently, Andy designed a series of boards and inflatable toy guns through Supreme, which will inevitably be re-sold for many times their sticker prices.
So if you (or your dad) have an old pair of New Deal “Big Deal Jeans” or a lightly-used Templeton first edition pro board, see how much you can sell them for now before these reissues hit the market. Or pick up a freshie and understand just how impressive it was that Ed Templeton could do impossibles on a fish tail.